By Mike Speller
In the afterglow of the wonderful buffet published in Storytelling Magazine’s “Coming Home Laughter” edition, I am proud to say NSN chose the Professor to share his Humor Kourse at the upcoming summer conference/workshop. So now I have plenty of material to copy, paraphrase, and claim as my own. I am joshing, of course!
Seriously, how do you follow that compendium of comic artists? Pardon moi, comic Storytellers. I aspire to their levels of creativity, confidence, and arte del commedia. However, I am confident I have something different to offer you, gentle reader. Do not say ‘tragedy’…I expect more of you.
First, let’s get our terms in order. Somebody’s dictionary defines Comedy as the end-product (ie, skit, play, Presidential race); Humor is the ability to create and/or perceive amusing things a.k.a. comedies, big or small; and Laughter is a violent physical and audible reaction to comedy, usually involving milk out the nose.
I shall now expel, uh, employ my flimsy knowledge of the periodic table, and my graduate degree in hard-knocks to share four elements that make Comedy possible: Inspiration, Timing, Execution, and Response.
Inspiration. Some people are born Humorous, some achieve Humor, and some have no clue.
To those of you born funny…well, la dee da. With great humor comes great responsibility! Spontaneous wit is wonderful but don’t rely on your Phillips screwdriver to change that light bulb (metaphor at play there).
To the working stiffs who achieve Humor, I applaud you. Through accumulation of comedy intake or the proverbial light bulb going on overhead, if you can make it funny here, you can make it funny anywhere.
To the clueless? Nobody’s perfect. The comic savant and the laborer alike can always add to their repertoire of methods (NOTE: THIS is a subliminal pitch to register for my workshop!), so if all you do is buy a light bulb this time around…at least you’ve got one.
Timing. …Wait for it….Thank you! It applies not just to a pause between words but judicious follow-up after a serious event.
Execution. Whether you’re writing or speaking your Humor, there’s two aphorisms you should know. The first comes from the film “My Favorite Year” (c/o I wish I knew): “Dying is easy, Comedy is hard.” Second, comes from Mr. Shakespeare, et al: “Brevity is the Soul of Wit.”
Granted, you may think this premise or that punchline is enough to make an assassin pee his pants, but the true test is reallllly…
Response (Did you see that coming?). One joke/bit/schtick is merely a barometer. For consistent response and rapport, your sense of humor and its end-product must be compatible with your audience as a whole (usually requiring some form of research or NSN workshop, I daresay).
Professor Pickle is not a scientist—most of you already know there’s at least five elements on the periodic table. He is not a surgeon—though his jokes can be cutting. The Professor is a practitioner of comedy and/or humor who believes he can help others relax about the subject of Humor and create the good stuff when the need arises. And there’s always a need.
Mike Speller began his professional acting career educating kids for CLIMB Theatre, laughing with Fanny Hill Dinner Theatre, improvising with TheatreSportz, then opening Walt Disney World’s Adventurers Club. He’s been featured at the Sterling (IL), LaCrosse (WI), and Ray Bradbury Festivals; and is honored to contribute to the NSN mind-meld. Join his humor workshop at the 2016 National Storytelling Conference, 7/21-24 in Kansas City, MO.